Homemade gifts are not just the less expensive option for ‘trying times’. Speaking for myself, I truly appreciate a handmade gift. It doesn’t matter if it’s edible, wearable, or displayable. I appreciate the thought and effort that goes into a homemade gift. The converse is also true. I’d rather make gifts than scour the malls or Amazon.com looking for just the right gift.
Kids always want to give gifts to friends as well as family and are usually all about making the gift. Here are a couple ideas that are simple, inexpensive, and fun for kids AND grown-ups. These gifts also lend themselves to the personalization that makes a homemade gift heart felt.
These ornaments are great. The only limitation is imagination. I’ve successfully made these with kids before. My only input was to write the greetings and year on the back.
Baking Soda Ornaments
2 c baking soda
1 c corn starch
1 1/4 c cold water
Mix the corn starch and baking soda in a saucepan. Add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is the consistency of wet mashed potatoes. Turn it out on a plate; cover it with a damp cloth; and let it cool. When the dough is cool, knead it until the texture is smooth. Seal the kneaded dough and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it.
Shape ornaments by hand or roll out the dough and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Insert a wire hanger in the soft dough, or be certain to leave a hole at the top for threading ribbon or string for hanging.
Let the ornaments air dry overnight or bake them in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes. If they don’t dry completely after 15 minutes, continue baking in 5-minute increments.
Dried pieces can be painted with markers, acrylic paint, poster paints or water colors.
Finish the ornaments with with a coat or two of clear varnish, clear nail polish or sealant.
Another kid-friendly idea is the CD Clock. This is a clever idea, completely personalizable, and the expense is minimal.
Edible gifts come in all categories. I’m not going to include baked goods here, because most people have traditional favorites that they put together for the holidays. These gift suggestions are a little different and fall into three different categories.
Plan ahead gifts
I call these ‘plan ahead’ gifts, because the ingredients for making them are cost effective when seasonal. Two can be made anytime, but will much more expensive to produce when the key ingredient(s) are out of season.
The first is Corn relish. This is a tasty canned good that just looks festive. I’ve never had a complaint from any recipient. Another home canned option is crispy dill pickles, I made these for the first time this year, and the recipe is marvelous! GOOD pickles. These first are the two that COULD be made off season, but cost-wise and quality wise, it’s better to plan ahead and make them when the produce is in season. This third suggestion is completely unique and has to be made when the crabapplies are in season. Crabapple liqueur is tasty, tart, and just tastes festive.
Make when convenient
Hot pepper jelly is not for everybody, but it is a unique and tasty gift with flexibility for use. Sweet refrigerator pickles can be made in small batches and don’t require all the fuss of traditional canned pickles. This Cajun spice recipe makes a whole bunch of spice. This and a recipe for blackened anything is great for gift giving.
Jar mixes are very successful as Christmas gifts. Although the jarred cookie mix is very popular, I have three suggestions for jar gifts that are outside of the proverbial box. Beer bread mix is very successful as a gift. The resultant bread is delicious, and I’ve had recipients of this mix come back to me for the whole recipe. Cornbread mix is a good one, too. A read-to-go cornbread recipe is always welcome. This cinnamon oatmeal pancake mix is a well-received gift, as well. It makes for a wonderful Christmas morning breakfast, actually.
Candy is a nice alternative for holiday giving. It’s still homemade and tends to have a bit longer shelf life that traditional baked goods. These ideas are tried and true. Some of them lend themselves well to kids’ involvement. Some are grown-ups only.
These almond joy bars are addicting. Hide them from yourself when they’re done! Welsh humbug is a good one for kid involvement. It involves some pulling, like salt water taffy. There is nothing like homemade butterscotch. This recipe for perfect butterscotch patties is one of my personal faves. As is this recipe for old fashioned hard candy. Flavored oils are readily available, so this is an easy option. Chocolate covered anything is good, but chocolate covered pretzels are an easy-to-make gift that double as a great item for holiday hosting. Finally, rock candy is another fun and different gift.
Consider any of these gifts for this and future holiday giving. I speak directly to the wow factor of most of these. There are some people who prefer store-bought to homemade. For those, they don’t know what they’re missing.
Photo credit: Dawn Huczek